Stanton: Rocca preview

LEESBURG, Va. (August 3, 2000) - For the last month or so, drag racing veteran Johnny Rocca has hinted, soft-talked and vehemently threatened to retire from the sport which has been a major part of his life for 40-plus years. ...

LEESBURG, Va. (August 3, 2000) - For the last month or so, drag racing veteran Johnny Rocca has hinted, soft-talked and vehemently threatened to retire from the sport which has been a major part of his life for 40-plus years. About the only thing he is unsure of, now, is which day he will retire this weekend. As his USA Racing team heads to Michigan for the CARQUEST Northern Nationals, Rocca is not at all confident of his supercharged "Ironhorse" '49 Mercury's chances in the Pro Modified division, the result of recent rule changes by the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) aimed at slowing down supercharged vehicles, which had a performance advantage over the opposing nitrous-fed contingent.

The event, to be held at Mid-Michigan Motorplex near Stanton, is the sixth stop on the 12-race IHRA/ Summit Drag Racing tour. "I'm not very optimistic," said Rocca in a tension-filled voice while leaving his Leesburg, Va.-based home for the event. "We've tested just about every combination, and I don't think we're going to qualify." "I know people have been hearing a lot from me lately about retiring (from the sport of drag racing)," he continued. "But, it is apparent that the IHRA is very serious about preventing these cars from competing, and relegating them to the back of the (16-car) field. "After a few more races, it will simply be too late." Rocca's car, a past IHRA elapsed time record-holder at 6.227-seconds with Australian-born standout driver, Troy Critchley, currently occupies fourth place in the IHRA's Pro Modified division, ironically just behind the nitrous machines of Quain Stott and Ed Hoover. Fred Hahn solidly holds first place in a supercharged Corvette owned by Jim Oddy. "As they (IHRA) continue to adjust weight and (rearend gear) ratio, it will be too late," continued Rocca. "Our points position will continue to suffer, and we will be all but finished in our abilities to capture the IHRA world championship." The Norwalk-Oh-based IHRA sanctioning body may indeed be firm in its commitment to limit vehicle combinations perceived as having an advantage, but Rocca's devastation comes from something which has been taken further from within. "The thing they took away the most is their trust," roared Rocca when asked if he would consider running in another division of IHRA, such as Top Fuel. "At this point I am pretty disappointed and disillusioned. "At IHRA you are just another spoke in the wheel, and that spoke can easily be replaced," continued Rocca in a voice that quickly turned somber. "Before long, people might notice that we are not there anymore - and wonder where we've gone." But by then, Rocca, a proud member of the Tuscarora Indian Tribe, and "Ironhorse", one of drag racing's most unique and popular vehicles, may have long since ridden into the sunset. Qualifying for this weekend's CARQUEST Northern Nationals will take place on Friday and Saturday (August 4 & 5), with final eliminations set for Sunday (August 6). The event will air nationally on TNN (The Nashville Network) cable television, on Sunday, September 10 at 10:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).

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Series Drag
Drivers Fred Hahn , Johnny Rocca , Quain Stott , Ed Hoover , Troy Critchley